Sabbatini and Uresti share Day 1 lead at rain-delayed Turning Stone event

rory sabbatini
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Rory Sabbatini escaped a sandy predicament on the 18th hole at Turning Stone on Thursday.
By
John Kekis
Associated Press

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Published: Thursday, August 05, 2010 | 10:29 p.m.

Rory Sabbatini doesn't have a problem reaching greens. He just has to get his putter working.

The 34-year-old South African hit all 18 greens in regulation for the second time in two months Thursday and shot a 7-under 65 that had him tied for the lead with Omar Uresti at the rain-delayed Turning Stone Resort Championship.

Sabbatini and Uresti both had seven birdies without a bogey and were one stroke in front of Brad Faxon, Brian Davis, Steve Elkington and Alex Cejka.

Despite shooting his best round since a 63 at the season-opening SBS Championship, Sabbatini needed 30 putts, five more than Uresti.

"It's not often you can come off the golf course and jokingly say you should have birdied them all." said Sabbatini, who was an alternate for last month's British Open at St. Andrews but did not play. "But I did."

John Mallinger, Chris Couch, Jonathan Byrd, Michael Bradley, Jason Dufner and Tim Wilkinson, who had to qualify on Monday, were tied at 67.

Because of a weather delay of nearly three hours, 24 players didn’t complete the first round. Among those who didn’t finish and were to complete the opening round on Friday morning were Chris Tidland, who was at 6 under with two holes to play, and Steve Wheatcroft, who was at 5 under after 16 holes.

The rain softened the 7,482-yard Atunyote Golf Club layout just enough to allow the players to aim at the pins on what turned into a sunny, humid day with a steady wind between 10 and 20 mph.

Sabbatini, who started on the back nine, birdied his first three holes before lightning and rain caused a 2-hour, 43-minute delay. He came back out and made birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 to make the turn at 31.

Although he made just one birdie on the four par 5s, Sabbatini birdied three of the four par 3s in a round he'll likely replay in his mind a few times.

"I would say I played well," he said. "I didn't score anywhere near what my potential was out there. I had a really good ball-striking day, had a lot of short birdie putts that I missed, a lot of good opportunities that I squandered out there, but overall, you know, going out there I made it a pretty stress-free day.

"I like the layout, and they give us quite a bit of room out there to work with," Sabbatini said. "Obviously, that little bit of rain we had early on this morning kind of softened the conditions up, so it made it pretty easy to be aggressive, especially to some of those pins."

Uresti has missed the cut in four of his last five PGA Tour starts, tied for 59th last month at the Reno-Tahoe Open, and had had only one round in the 60s since mid-June.

A new putter made all the difference Thursday.

"If you look at my rounds and my stats recently, I've been having 32 to 34, even 35 putts a round and only shooting a couple over," Uresti said. "So to get it down to where I did today at 25, that's 10 strokes off the score right there, or at least nine. That's what's been hurting me. Today it felt really good in my hands. I felt confident, and I was trying not to take so much time over it."

Uresti made five birdies on the back side, his best coming at the par-4 13th. He hit a 3-iron into the wind to 44 feet and made the putt, which broke nearly 8 feet. Unfortunately, he had to ask his caddie what happened.

"It stopped on the front lip, and I put my head down and didn't see it drop," Uresti said with a smile. "It's just a matter of getting it in the hole. It helps just to be able to throw up a number. It feels pretty good."

Hall, who had a gallery of around 200 -- by far the largest of the day -- following him, was upbeat despite a round that included two bogeys, a double-bogey, and a triple-bogey.

"It was a good day, it was all right, just a struggle from the first hole," said Hall, who made 11 pars and two birdies. "But that's going to happen in golf. It was just unfortunate, one of my bad days of golf happened at a PGA Tour event.

"I still have a lot of confidence," he said. "I've never had a big crowd like that around the ropes. It was just a different feeling, so I was out of rhythm most of the whole day. I definitely learned a lot, and if I can improve a little more here and there I think I'll play well (Friday). I've already had a 62 this year, so I think there's one out there."

Fifteen-year-old Gavin Hall, of Pittsford, N.Y., finished at 6-over 78 in his PGA Tour debut, but still had a smle on his face.

"It was a good day. It was all right, just a struggle from the first hole as you guys could see," said Hall, who is trying to become the second-youngest player in tour history to make a tournament cut. "But that's going to happen in golf. It was just unfortunate, one of my bad days of golf happened at a PGA Tour event."

Hall said he still had a lot of confidence. And why not, he shot a 10-under-par 62 two weeks ago to set a scoring record at the U.S. Junior Amateur.

"I've been having strong finishes the last three or four weeks. I think I can definitely improve on it and post a good number (Friday)," he said.

The left-handed teenager was followed by a gallery of about 200 fans, by far the day's largest. He opened with a double bogey before making birdie at the par-5 fifth hole. He then hit trouble on the back nine with bogeys at the 12th and 14th and a triple bogey at No. 13.

"Middle part of the round was just rough. I wasn't in rhythm," he said. "I learned to keep your emotions in control. That's the thing."

Hall played in a group with New Zealander Tim Wilkinson and Cameron Tringale. Wilkinson was impressed with his young playing partner.

"It's hard watching someone that's a little bit nervous on the first few holes. I think he had a little bit of adrenaline going early on," said Wilkinson, who shot a 5-under 67. "He hit it over a few greens, but after that he played really well. As long as he has fun and learns from it, he's got a big future in front of him. He's got a good game."

Rain delayed play in the morning for nearly three hours. Divots: The first-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win just seven of 32 stroke-play events on the PGA Tour in 2010. The first-round leader has yet to go on to win this event in its three-year history. ... Vaughn Taylor, who lost a six-hole, sudden-death playoff to Matt Kuchar last year, shot a 72. ... Uresti matched his best first-round score on the PGA Tour, and his 65 was one shot off the lowest round of his career.